Creative Commons from allvectors.com

Creative Commons from allvectors.com

In a world filled with social media and mobile tools, your most powerful customer engagement device may actually be—the telephone! People rarely get personal phone calls these days (of course I’m not including those awful robo-calls and mass marketing). And the human voice brings so many more nuances to a conversation than a text or email. Plus, it’s more Efficient. I know, this sounds crazy. But here’s the thing: a phone call is Fully Interactive. It is way faster than emailing or texting. And it doesn’t have that annoying delay of Skype. That’s right, when I say something over the phone, you can respond Immediately, no waiting. And then I can respond to you Right Back!

Here are 5 ways to use your phone to ramp up your business:

  1. Key Deliverables. At any point where there are key deliverables in a project, I like to call the client. Is there anything we missed? Any concerns? Any new developments moving forward? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned information I’d never get in an email or through the many conversations we post on the cloud-based project management tool I often use.
  2. Setting Meetings. Have you ever been part of a spiraling email chain where people are trying to choose a meeting date and time? Huge time-waster! Put in a call to the key person, find out options, make a few other calls, done. Yes you can use a Doodle Poll. But people often hedge and put things down as “maybe” and then who knows where you are. So pick up the phone and set up your meeting now!
  3. Negotiating. Unless there is just one easy clause of a contract to adjust, any detailed negotiations should happen in person or by phone. You can more easily find out Why a party needs a particular clause. And you can better convey your own concerns and goals.
  4. Building Vendor Relationships. Building relationships with suppliers and team members is one of the most important things you can do to deliver better customer service. Having those conversations in person (you can still email backup in writing) is the best way to build and retain those connections.
  5. Thank You’s. Yes I often also Write These on a Notecard and send them. I know, that’s even more retro/radical. And yes, I send emails, too. But sometimes calling and saying “thank you”to a vendor or client in your real voice is yet another important human interaction that builds trust and long-term collaboration.

Amy DeLouise is probably on the phone, so you can also reach her on Twitter @brandbuzz, on Linked In  or via email at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.

Is it time for a change in your career path? Butterfly We all have those moments when we feel the seasonal shifts in our professional lives. Sometimes these are triggered by personal life events–children, aging parents, an illness. Often they are part of bigger trends in our industry (boy has my industry changed from the days of shooting on film to 4K cameras!).

The three keys to a successful personal re-brand are the same elements needed for any strong brand:  Storytelling,  Community,  and  Authenticity.

1. Storytelling. Everyone has a brand story–even individuals and small companies. So tell your story. And if your story now includes a new service, or a new focus, or a new location–tell THAT story.  How?

Curate & Share-Help people sort through the clutter in your new area of expertise by tweeting about a new study, or build and share a useful resource list. You could write a how-to blog post on the topic (and send an email to your clients to better share it). You could build an infographic on a new trend and pin it on Pinterest and share through other social platforms. And don’t forget to curate for yourself by following thought leaders in your new area of work.

Even better, let your Community tell your new brand story. See next paragraph!

2. Community. My friends Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter in their useful book Humanize say “Everyone has customers, stakeholders, suppliers, members, constituents…but not everyone can honestly say they have a community.”  I would turn that a bit and say you probably have a community you haven’t really thought about. It might be your religious community, it might be people in your neighborhood, it might be friends through a music group–you are connected to many different communities and can reach out to all of them to let them know what changes you’re making and enlist their help.

How? Your community can help promote your new website, or retweet your new posts. They can suggest new contacts for you, or post endorsements on Linked In.  And speaking of Linked In, try their nifty new “In Map” feature, that lets you visualize your personal networks (mine look like a squid–with the head being my digital media contacts, and the tentacles being all the different communities that I participate in through work and play).

3. Authenticity. One of the most important components of a successful brand today is that you are who you really are, across all platforms and networks. There once was a time when people had personal Facebook pages separate from their professional ones. Those days are gone. (That doesn’t mean you can’t segregate which posts go to all your “friends” and which ones stay amongst a select group–take the time to break out your friends groups in Settings, people!  Google+ lets you do this from the get-go–much simpler!)

So if you are making a career shift–be transparent about it. In fact, engage your Community with your evolving Story by crowd-sourcing ideas you can use in your new field, or location or area of expertise.  You can do this easily through social platforms. But you can also do it In Real Life! Talk to people and ask for advice and believe me, they will share.

And now your new personal brand will be connected to lots of other personal brands that are evolving, too.

Amy DeLouise is a digital content creator who consults on brands and is always evolving her personal brand. Follow her occasional tweets on the subject (and #nonprofits, #video, #food, #fastcars ) @brandbuzz.

 

Yellow Hibiscus, Red Center 7_IGP0786 s.c Is updating your brand part of your 2014 New Year’s resolutions? Here are five ways to boost your brand recognition this year.

 1. Improve Social Media Engagement.  Google’s new algorithm not surprisingly puts the focus on Google +1’s. AccordingWishpond’s James Scherer (@JDScherer) writing for SmartBrief’s social media blog “While links are still incredibly important, equally important (and in the +1’s case, more important) are social endorsements such as Facebook likes and shares, LinkedIn shares, tweets and Pinterest pins.”   Building in ways for your donors, your followers, or your customers to engage with you and create those ever important endorsements is essential. Consider special discounts for conferences and events, or unique content for Twitter or Facebook followers to make the new SMO work for your brand.

2. Bring Your Executive Team on Board in Social Media. Gone are the days when your intern writes your blogs and Facebook posts. Customers and donors expect to follow the CEO’s twitter feed and get an insider perspective. Let the Thought Leaders in your institution–your C-Suite team and your Board leaders–build your brand by engaging in social channels. Sure, you can help them out with suggested themes, samples , and optimal timing around key events and product roll-outs. But their insider perspective and authentic voice is essential. A polished, corporate example is Bill Marriott’s On the Move blog. A slightly more irreverant blog is DuetsBlog, which belongs to a law firm. Ford’s chief digital communicator, Scott Monty, has a twitter feed worth emulating (@ScottMonty). But the examples you can offer are as endless as the kinds of personalities in your leadership circle.

3. Ask Movers and Shakers to Tweet About You. The tweet is the modern equivalent of getting an autograph, but more useful for your brand. When one of my nonprofit clients gave a facility tour to Justin Bieber (and encouraged him to tweet about it, which he did), they got 10,000 new followers in a matter of hours. Find out if any key personalities(or well-connected board members) are already known to your institution and encourage that they will Tweet, post on Facebook or blog about you.  And yes, specifically ask them to do it!

4. Make Your Video Content Multi-Platform Friendly. Right now, H.264 is still the go-to codec, but H.265 is on the way. And yet many organizations are still shooting standard def or stuck in the land of Flash.  If you want your content to be mobile- and web-friendly, make it a priority to upgrade your acquisition and output specs. For new content, shoot in High Def, at 1080p (29.97 frame rate, or 24fps which looks nicer in many cases and saves you some file space) for maximum flexibility and image quality. This larger acquisition size takes up more space, but storage is cheap. Whereas having your fabulous web fundraising video look horrible and pixelated at your annual conference could be an expensive mistake.

5. Multi-cast Your Content. Now it’s easy to share branded videos not just through Facebook, iTunes and YouTube, but also through Podcast Alley, MeFeedia, and more.  You can even reach the television-viewing audience by doing a direct-to-TiVO distribution. This allows you to bring more eyeballs to your content, and syndicate your branded content across multiple delivery platforms.

Merry Branding and a Happy New Year!

Amy is a frequent speaker, workshop leader, and an author on Lynda.com .

A canvasser knocked on my door last night to sign us up for a petition in a community clean water campaign.  On the same day, I got an email link to a new candidate’s YouTube Senate campaign video. Both campaigns offer case studies for things to do and those to avoid in issue advocacy.

An engaging, passionate, and very cold (it was below freezing outside) canvasser made a great case for lobbying our county council against development along Ten Mile Creek, which eventually makes its way into the Potomac. We asked for more information and he left us with a printed fact sheet. I wanted more information so I emailed a friend who works at an environmental organization and he asked me for the sheet. That’s when the problems began. I couldn’t find the talking points anywhere online–not on the organization’s web link provided, not anywhere on its website, not by Googling it.  Having a physical person come to my door to sign me up for the petition was great. No one loves those telemarketer phone calls–even for a good cause. And he was able to engage in more in-depth conversation about the issue. But the handout was too long (front and back of a page!) for today’s short attention spans and there was no way to share it other than scanning it. The website doesn’t feature any way to Tweet, promote on Facebook, or otherwise connect socially to this campaign–boo hoo.

Takeaways: Handouts are great. Emails are even better, with web and social links. But all physical page handouts should include easy ways to share the content in social forums.

The next campaign came via email. Shenna Bellows is running for Senate in Maine and looks like a great candidate from her YouTube campaign video. I love the personal interviews and the way they cut together people looking straight to camera to convey the variety of her prospective constituents. What I HATE HATE HATE (can you tell I hate it?!) is how she is reading “off-axis” from a teleprompter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to do this reading from prompter thing. But the axis is entirely too severe to be believable as an interview setup. [Insert shameless self-promotion here:  See my Lynda.com Art of the Interview class for more on best interview setups.]  It would have been better to cull these points during a real interview. Or to just do the prompter-over-the-camera and have her deliver straight to the audience. Either way, the great techniques of the rest of the spot are undermined by this rookie mistake.

Takeaways: Real people, real interviews are key to believability in social web.

For mission-driven nonprofits, telling stories–obstacles to overcome, successes won–can be one of the best ways to show people you are delivering on the mission.  Human stories compels viewers and listeners in a way that other communications just don’t.   But if you’ve ever had to interview someone–whether for a podcast, video or audio program–you know that drawing out the best story can be difficult.

So I’m pleased to announce my new course on Lynda.com–taught with my good friend and colleague Rich Harrington– called the Art of the Video Interview (we also cover audio-only interviews).   We’ve put our years of experience into this practical course, and cover everything from location scouting and interview preparation, to how to build rapport with interviewees, what equipment to use for audio-only interviews, getting the best interview out of difficult subjects–people who are subject matter experts, young children, couples. And finally, we address all the things that will help you prepare for a better edit–including how to minimize narration and using transcripts effectively for workflow.  We had a lot of fun putting together this course, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

Sky at Sunset 1. Compelling Images.  Photos have been proven to increase click-through rates, and video is a highly searched medium on the web. And most organizations have access to digital photography, and even can make their own video clips. But one of the downsides of the digital revolution is Volume. When helping organizations produce effective multimedia outreach, I’m often faced with trolling through literally millions of photos that an organization has taken during various events in order to find the ones that might be effective in a marketing or fundraising video. Try to have someone go through images as soon as they are shot—or have the photographer curate them and only send you the best selects. Consider opportunities to crop and focus on what really conveys your mission, who you serve and how you do it. Here’s a great resource on how to design and use still images more effectively, from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)

2. Compelling People. Personal stories are one of the best ways to connect an audience to your content. But getting authentic video interviews can often be challenging, even for experienced interviewers, if you are forced to conduct interviews in a conference room or other impersonal space. So your interview technique is critical. In my Art of the Interview classes, I go in depth on some of the tools of the trade, but here are a few areas to focus on:

-Build rapport at the start of the interview—preferably before the person walks in, by conducting a phone pre-interview. But worst case, chat with them before they come into the room with all the lighting and cameras.

-Memorize your questions so you can maintain eye contact at all times with your subject

-Create a “story arc” so that there is a beginning, middle and end to your questions, and both you and your interviewee have a satisfying conversation

-Don’t interrupt—with your voice. Rather, if an interviewee is going on too long, you can break eye contact and get a little squirmy. This will let them know they need to stop, without ruining your audio track for editing.

4. Cross-platform Story Strategy. When starting a communications project, consider different iterations that could help different communities you can reach through different mediums. You might tweet a great photo of a successful well-digging project in Africa. A video clip of the same project can be posted to Youtube and your Vimeo channel.  If you can boil your story down to 6 seconds, consider Vine–the new app for iPhone (promising to be released soon for Android) that allows you to make and post mini-videos. (Here’s a good explanation of how to make this platform work from @Mashable.)  An extended video of how the project came about, with interview clips from the well-users can be showcased at your annual meeting. A teaser 20-second clip can become an email embed for a fundraising campaign. The list is as endless as your imagination and your ability to organize and plan at the Outset of production. You can make a planning form like this ADeLouiseStoryPlanDoc when mulling all the possibilities for a project.

4. Organized Media Assets. Cross-platform storytelling is all well and good, but the problem is often wrangling all those image assets from multiple sources throughout your organization. Most DSLR’s (and even many prosumer video cameras) will create non-unique and sort of gobbledegook (technical term) labels for your images that don’t tell you anything about them. Lovely stuff like IMG_4033 and DSC1050.MOV. You can use a number of software systems to batch rename your files so that they include the original name, but also some useful information such as the date shot and the initials of the photographer/videographer.

Adobe Bridge is a handy batch renaming and organizing tool. It comes with Adobe Creative Suite and can work with your photo and video assets too.

If you need something free, you can try the Amok Exif Sorter, which I haven’t personally used but comes with high marks from the “Mythbusters” guys.

I’ve been giving workshops and hanging out at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters, for those of you who aren’t in this field).  Three questions I think worthy of consideration (and future blog posts by moi):

Are ubiquitous digital tools causing us to overshoot photos and video (well, yes), thus making workflow overly focused on dealing with quantity as opposed to creative and quality…and what are we going to do about it?

How are issue advocacy nonprofits leading the way in terms of the convergence of multi-platform media and communitiy-building, and what can the rest of us learn from them?

And a question for those of you here in Vegas: What’s the coolest “new thing” at NAB that will change the way we think and work creatively? Comment below!

(Shameless plug: See the post before this if you want to come to some of my remaining sessions!)

Can you believe it was just 2005 when YouTube was invented? Since then, millions of companies, nonprofits and government agencies have seen the impact of telling their stories through video.  And with so many tools–from iPhone cameras to Videopad Video Editor–you can do it yourself.  So why bother hiring a professional video production team?  Consider these:

1. Time.  Good story-telling and mastering the technical tools to make it possible can be much more time-intensive than most people realize. Typically I spend a minimum of 100 hours on a 5-6 minute video project, but often more. The work starts with developing the concept and script, but also includes selecting the right people to be part of the story and the best technologies to deliver the content. You’ll have more time to do your real job if you are overseeing others doing this work, but not actually doing all the tasks yourself (like logging footage for editing–a real time suck!). You’ll also be in a better position to make the Decisions That Matter–like What are the key values of your organization (your brand story), Who is the target audience you want to reach, What do you hope to achieve with the video and How will you measure your success?

2. Quality. A professional video production team has decades of experience that can maximize impact for budget. Areas of expertise include: creative direction, writing, storyboarding, camera equipment and lens options, sound recording and equipment selection, interviewing techniques, lighting design, set design, casting, makeup, music licensing, voiceover artist selection and direction, editing (absolutely Huge part of good storytelling!), motion or still graphics design, audio mixing, etc.  Every one of the decisions of the team will impact the final production, so choosing the right team leader (the Director/Producer) and the right person on your team to manage that person (your Communications Director, or a point person on your team who can help funnel decision-making) is a big and important decision for your team to make.

3. Dependability. Hiring a professional team should give you a dependable workflow and schedule for your project, even if it means shooting in your office and working around other people’s schedules. By hiring people who must show up for shoots and edits on a certain timetable, rather than depending on colleagues who have other work to deliver, you can ensure you hit your upload deadline on time.

4. Flexibility. A quality professional team should ask a lot of questions at the outset so they understand what the final deliverable format(s) are optimal. If you want flexibility–to put something up on the web as H.264 video, but also compress it for mobile web and Also be able to use it on a big screen at your next annual meeting–you’ll need the team to know that and “bake it in” to the acquisition specs and workflow for the project.

The big downside to hiring an outside production team is, of course, cost. A professionally produced 5-6 minute video costs $2,500 per finished minute on the low end, and goes up from there depending on number of shoot days/locations, complexity of editing and graphics, professional talent, etc. But often people don’t consider the hidden “opportunity cost” of do-it-yourself work.  Such costs can include: not properly formatting video, so it won’t play on your site or on mobile web; not properly licensing music so that you are at risk of being sued or having your video pulled down; having the production take many more hours to create, because the folks creating it have to learn the craft as they do it; losing sight of the goals of the production, because everyone on your team is too busy to consider the big picture. Not to mention losing sight of your actual job!

The upside to do-it-youself is–well–you get to have the fun of creating a great and compelling story and bringing it to a wider audience.

The Inc 500–companies with top net sales growth in the last five years–are changing the way they use social media. The Center for Marketing Research at U Mass Dartmouth has come out with a great study to dig at the how and why.  Some interesting trends…

-Facebook use is down

-Linked In use is up, surpassing Facebook use (possible correlation: up-tick in using social to drive down cost of finding new hires)

-More use of Pinterest and FourSquare

-Inc 500’s are blogging more than their counterparts in the Fortune 500

-Almost 2/3 of Inc 500 CEO’s are contributing some kind of content for social platforms

-This almost directly matches the % of CEO’s who believe social platforms have contributed to their company’s growth (does that mean they see the connection because they are contributing content? or does it mean they have big egos and can’t imagine that their content isn’t having an impact? or are they actually measuring their impact?)

-Inc 500’s aren’t increasing social media spending (but they’re not decreasing it either)

But here’s the one stat that really grabbed me: 35% of these companies aren’t monitoring their brand in the social space.  And almost a quarter of them don’t have a social media Plan. Huuuunnh?  It’s truly hard to imagine a company not monitoring the impact of its advertising dollars or its investments in manufacturing tools, so it’s truly astonishing that companies spend time and money on social but don’t try to figure out what conversations are happening there related to their brands.  Is it that they don’t understand how to do it? That they don’t have the resources to do it? Or that they are still evolving a Plan to do it? Or…they’re not sure who should be managing this entire monitoring/planning process?

So if you want to put your company or nonprofit ahead of the fastest growing companies in America, here’s how to do it:

1. Develop a Plan for Using Social Media and

2. Monitor How Your Brand is Doing in Social Spaces.

If you can develop a list of goals as part of accomplishing #1, then you will have something to measure against when you are attempting #2.  To accomplish the first task, you may need your marketing and communications teams to build social media goals and strategies into existing communications plans.  To accomplish the second task, you may want to consider assigning–perhaps on a rotational basis–someone who’s your Chief Listening Officer. That person can begin to monitor conversations and get a sense of where your Plan is working, and where it isn’t.

Using more social platforms can be effective. Imagine how much more effective if you know your goals and your impact.